Democracy in Indonesia is developing in line with the rapid penetration of internet users. It causes people easier for gathering news instantly from numerous sources. At the same time, the number of disinformation or hoaxes is increasingly worrying. Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology identified 486 pieces of hoax shared across several online platforms only in April 2019, during the period of the simultaneous general election.
The main actor in this issue is the cyber troops who hired to be a tool of propaganda. They dominate social media by narrating something that supports their interests. Sometimes, they do it by spreading disinformation. It has been identified by Samantha Bradshaw and Philip P Howard from the University of Oxford, London, United Kingdom. They found that cyber troops are used by the government and the political party to manipulate the fact. Bradshaw and Howard found evidence of a government agency using computational propaganda in 44 countries. In Indonesia, we usually call them as a buzzer.
Because of that reason, Arif Zulkifli, a member of the Press Council asks the government to create regulation dealing with the buzzer. There are two main reasons why the government has to do something to the buzzer, developing fact manipulation and threatened Indonesian democracy.
Manipulation of facts drives the public to the wrong understanding of some important cases. It affects the public to lose true information on social media. It is also contradictory to the press intentions to be an authenticator of news for the public interest. The current case happened when buzzer accused humanitarian volunteers brought stones inside of their ambulances. Due to this accusation, some of the humanitarian volunteers protest to the buzzer. In the following time, the accusation is proven wrong after some of the people examine the news through some digital tools.
Cyber troops also threaten democracy because they do not offer diversity opinion. They want all public opinion to support their interests so they attack everyone who disagrees with them. We may remember that Ismail Fahmi the founder of Drone Emprit Academy was attacked by buzzer because of his analyze of a student demonstration in late September. It causes polemic at that time for a moment about this attack.
Based on Bradshaw and Howard’s research, cyber troops’ jobs are amplifying disinformation, repressing human rights, and discrediting a political opponent. As a result of this problem, we have to upgrade digital literacy to overcome this issue. On the other hand, the ambition of the press to be the only gatekeeper of the facts more problematics. That is why the press has to change the way to serve the audience, they have to be a medium of public discourse through print, audio, video, or digital platform.
Andy Riza Hidayat, Benediktus Krisna Yogatama, Aditya Diveranta